The place name is “Valli”, or “sand” in Tamil and Sinhala. The Vishnu temple here was constructed around the 13th century. Tamil Buddhists and Hindu cults co-existed with no trouble, even when the rulers did not, and hence a Vaishnava tradition may have existed in early times as well. The deity of the temple is called Vallipura Azhvar. Azhvar names are common in Vaishnavite tradition. This place is the first place of settlement in Sri Lanka. Rest of Sri Lanka was populated from this landing place. Vallipuram (Sandy City) has a recorded history from the 2nd century BC, in the gold inscription, where the local ruler is named as “Azhagiri”, a name confirmed in the Nelugala stone inscription (2nd Century BC). King Vasaba is also thought to be mentioned. The Buddhist list of holy places (“Nampotha”) names it as “Vallipuram” or sand city. The exact details of the temple complex are not known, and the famous `Vallipuram” Buddha statue built with Dravidian A sculptural traditions from Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh wa found in excavations below the Hindu Temple. The language of the inscription is Tamil-Prakrit, which shares several similarities with script inscriptions used in Andhra at the time. This cultural exchange between the Jaffna Tamils and Andhra Pradesh occurred at the height of Tamil trade in the Sangam period, continuing when the Telugu Satavahana dynasty was at the height of its power from 230 BCE right through when its 17th monarch Hala (20-24 CE) married a princess from the island. Professor Peter Shalk (University of Uppsala), writes “Vallipuram has very rich archaeological remains that point at an early settlement. It was probably an emporium in the first centuries AD. From already dated stones with which we compare this Vallipuram statue, we can conclude that it falls in the period 3-4 century AD. During that period, the typical Amaravati-Buddha sculpture was developed”. The Buddha statue found here was gifted to King of Thailand by the then British Governor Henry Blake in 1906. The descendants of Arya Chakrawarthi married into Kalinga Magha family and created a dynasty of Singai-Aryans and ruled from Vallipuram and renamed it as Singai Nagar. However, no historically useful objects, e.g., inscriptions, art or literary works were left by these rulers, and Paranavithana and other historians claim that they paid tribute to the main ruler of the co also S. Paranavithana, “Vallipuram Gold-Plate Inscription of the Reign of Vasaba. Epigraphia Zeylanica, 4 (1936) 229-236. A full discussion has been given recently by Karthigesu Indrapala, Evolution of an Ethnic Identity, (2005), and in an earlier work, 1965 where Dr. Indrapala argued for a flourishing pre-Christian Buddhist civilization in Jaffna, in agreement with Paranavithana, and Mudliyar C. Rasanayagam’s Ancient Jaffna.
Text by Neil Kiriella